As Ohio State held its first full team practice Monday, one of the leading themes was coach Urban Meyer's continued search for a game-changing receiver. Devin Smith is one possibility. "My gosh," Meyer said of the sophomore burner, "do we need a guy like that to do something." Also in the running: Evan Spencer, Corey Brown and freshman Michael Thomas.
But suffice to say Meyer will not truly find his white whale -- or, more specifically, his LeBron. The first-year OSU coach's search for a playmaker on the outside calls to mind the one that got away.
As a receivers coach at Notre Dame in 2000, Meyer offered a scholarship to a sophomore wideout named LeBron from Akron. He knew the player as a star wideout for St. Vincent St. Mary, not the guy who dabbled on the hardwood during the winter.
"Thank you very much," LeBron said. "I'll consider it.'"
The player's coach laughed.
"What are you laughing at?" Meyer recalled replying.
"Do you know who that is?" the coach said.
"That's LeBron James."
"Who's LeBron James?"
"He'll be the next Michael Jordan."
Asked how good the 6-foot-8 James would have been on Saturdays and ultimately Sundays, Meyer said, "first-round draft pick, Hall of Famer ... "
Meyer, it turns out, still has a soft spot for the Heat superstar, now a pariah in much of his home state because of the self-serving and perhaps plotted way he left Cleveland in 2010. (Recall the Michigan-level jeers James received at the OSU-Duke basketball game in Columbus last season).
"He's a good person. ... You never hear about anything off the field with him," Meyer said recently. "I guess it's just the way it all transitioned, the show or something. I respect him as an athlete. He's a winner."
Meyer's approval rating in Ohio is conservatively triple the percent of Americans who like cute puppies. (A Blade survey puts the figure at 167 percent, plus or minus 4 percentage points.) He has struck all the right notes. There is nothing wrong with pulling for James. But in this election season, there are two polarizing topics best avoided in Ohio: politics and LeBron. Hey, nobody's perfect.